Saturday, November 29, 2008

Death to the Australian Auteur!

Or so says Bill Bennett in this SMH article.

I can appreciate where he's coming from, but alas I fear I'm too ignorant about our local industry to comment on the specifics. It sure doesn't seem like we have the money to institute such a roundabout production process? In any case, it looks like we now have $197 million Australia sized hole to deal with.

At the other end of the spectrum is the philosophy behind Hugh Jackman's Seed Production. I welcomed the news that Jackman was hanging out his shingle, with the aim of producing four to five films a year with budgets under $10 million.

Says Jackman, "Our aim is to support Australian filmmakers, to stimulate the creative community and provide international opportunities for Australian artists."

In a TV report I recall Jackman's business partner John Palermo citing Calender Girls as an example of a small budget film that was a huge commerical success. The idea, he explained, was that in making these $10 million films, every so often a Calendar Girls would come along and pay for the rest.

It sounds ambitious, but it strikes me that this approach has merit. And with an actor (and 'star') rather than director calling the shots, perhaps Bennett would agree?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks


Happy Thanksgiving ya'll!

No, I haven't morphed into a loud American, but my brother's fiancée has brought this turkey day to our clan. A day of eating, drinking and family infighting?! Sounds like something Australians can sign up for - think of it as preparation for Christmas and Boxing Day.

In three years, however, I have still to figure out how or why stuffing is a separate dish from the turkey. Really. I'm not an unintelligent person, yet for years I've made the crazy assumption that stuffing is what is actually stuffed inside the bird. And for some reason that continues to allude me, American thanksgiving meals are evidently incomplete without a separate bowl of stuffing (and not just scraping the goop out of the turkey).

This is also the same people that melt marshmallows on sweet potatoes to serve as another side dish...

You live you learn!

Someone also struggling with the prospect of cooking a thanksgiving meal for her family is Ms. Burns in Pieces of April. If you're looking for a thanksgiving film tonight, then I can recommend tracking down this one. It's got a crazy family, tears and turkey, captured by the astute eye of writer/director Peter Hedges (of Dan in Real Life fame).

Otherwise, gather some friends and gorge yourselves until you're in a food coma...that sounds like the true meaning of thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Defiant Bond


While I'm about to go and see Quantum of Solace tonight, I'm already eagerly anticipating Daniel Craig's next brooding turn in Edward Zwick's Defiance. Craig trades in Bond to become a Bielski brother, in this true story of Jewish resistance during World War II.

In the part of Soviet Eastern Europe now known as Belarus, Tuvia Bielski and his two brothers took to the woods and set up camp. After rescuing men, women and children from the ghetto, the camp became a community and one of the largest Partisan bands of the war.

Zwick can wander into the melodramatic, but in general I find his films thoughtful, provocative and beautifully shot. His impressive filmography includes: Glory, The Siege, Legends of the Fall, Courage Under Fire, The Last Samuari and of course Blood Diamond.

He's taking on history again with Defiance, and I'm pleased to see the movie's website features a lot of historical detail. Of course the site includes the telltale caveat, "Even playing heed to true events, Edward Zwick notes that he was never interested in presenting a documentary."

Encouragingly, Zwick elaborates, "In addition to investigating the characters, I want audiences to be on the edge of their seats, a feeling that only a movie can create. And remarkably enough, in order to do that, we didn't have to bowdlerize the history, because the excitement was all there in the real story."

One wonders how history would have been treated had the 'real story' not lived up to the required excitement. And while I agree narrative is probably the most engaging and accessible way to portray history, I'd wager that documentaries can put audiences' bums on the edges of seats.

But I'll get off my soap box now...

...History, heroism, and a defiant Daniel Craig...sign me up!

Check out the trailers here.

Defiance is slated for an Australian release on 19 February 2009.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

For better or worse...

Hold onto your hats, people, Australia is coming!

R.I.P Michael Crichton

I was sad to read that Michael Crichton succumbed to cancer on Tuesday, at the age of 66. He was a thoroughly entertaining writer whose Hollywood adaptations shaped the 1990s blockbuster. I was too young for The Andromeda Strain, but who among us didn't scare the bejesus out of themselves in the cinema watching Jurassic Park? Rising Sun, Disclosure, Twister, Congo and Sphere soon followed: the scary, racy and raunchy thrillers that punctuated the 1990s - as regular as clockwork, and as anticipated his Christmas novel releases.

Having worked in a bookshop, I've sorted, stickered and shelved countless Crichton titles and introduced a few readers to his engaging and accessible novels. I've also spent countless hours in front of ER, which Crichton created, wrote and produced. His medical drama shaped the course of television history just as his blockbusters shaped Hollywood. ER was surely M*A*S*H of my generation.

Crichton was a medical doctor, writer, producer, director: a great talent to match his prodigious height.

UPDATE 5pm: Here is the official NY Times obituary.
And how cool is this pic?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New World Order

He's done it! Hallelujah!

It's been a tense wait for we internationals, unable to vote, yet profoundly affected by the outcome. To us, Obama has declared, "A new dawn of American leadership is at hand."

Change has come to last!

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